Imagine if you could find a substance that enabled all the current machinery powered by diesel to operate perfectly normally as a carbon neutral fuel. It is what every major motor manufacturer would want to enable them to scale back their electric power R&D, continue as normal and claim the highest green credentials through the fact that they aren’t creating a need to scrap loads of valuable machinery that exists across the planet.
Too good to be true perhaps? Numerous companies are trying to do this via various sources from Bamboo to Panda poo, and this week Audi announced they have created an e-diesel containing ethanol by by using renewable energy to produce a fuel from carbon dioxide and water.
Produced by renewables
Like fossil fuel, the product consists of a chain of hydrocarbon compounds but they are free of sulfur which means it burns soot free. The production involves renewable energy being sourced to power the process to heat water to temperatures above 800oC (1472oF). Steam created from this heating is split into oxygen and hydrogen through electrolysis.
The hydrogen is then blended with carbon monoxide under very high temperatures and pressure to produce a product that Audi are calling ‘blue crude’. The company behind Audi behind the project is called Sunfire and is based in Dresden, claim the product is very efficient with the conversion of the initial renewable power running at 70%. The e-diesel can be mixed with fossil diesel or used alone.
The process was first named by scientists in the 1920s as Fischer-Tropsch and was used by the Germans in World War II to convert coal to diesel during shortages. Remarkably the process is used by many companies across the globe where there are shortages of oil but plenty of fossil fuels like gas and coal.
Volkswagon have already funded a company to produce this product but it filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Whist Audi – who own VW – admit the process is not new, it does say that the efficiency of conversion has been significantly increased by the heat at which the water is split. Watch this space.